Book Notes

These are notes on a couple of books I’ve read recently. They didn’t send me rushing to the computer to write about them, but they were good enough to finish.

I wrote a bit about Solar by Ian McEwan in a Teaser Tuesday post, whilst I was still reading it.

Opinion on Amazon is pretty much spread across the board, almost as many people  giving it five stars as those giving it one star. I thought it was OK, not as good as Atonement or Enduring Love both of which I loved.

It’s a story of greed, self-deception as well as climate science, global warming and photovoltaics.  The book is in three sections, 2000, 2005 and 2009 following the life of Michael Beard, a Nobel Prize winning physicist whose fifth marriage has failed.  His previous marriages had all ended due to his womanising,  but this time it’s his wife who has an affair and he can’t stand it. Beard is an unlikeable character, bemoaning his weight, overeating and drinking to excess, lecturing and lechering, stealing his colleagues research and setting up his wife’s lover for murder:

He was self-sufficient, self-absorbed, his mind a cluster of appetites and dreamy thoughts. Like many clever men who prize objectivity, he was a solipsist at heart , and in his heart was a nugget of ice … (page 169)

There are some interesting and some not so interesting parts to this book, some of it great and some not so great. It seemed as though it was really three episodes rather than one story.

The Turning of the Tide by Reginald Hill was originally published under the pseudonym of Patrick Ruell in 1971 as The Castle of the Demon. It’s described on the book jacket as an ‘intricately plotted thriller’. Emily has left her husband, the enigmatic Sterne Follett and is staying in Skinburness, a coastal town on the Solway Firth. At first the reasons for her doing this are not revealed. A sequence of sinister events unfolds, a body is found and Emily realises that her husband is involved – just how or why she has yet to discover.

Emily is staying in a house facing the long spit of land called the Grune, a sandy raised shingle beach. She suspects someone has been in the house, moving her things, she sees a green face looking in the window at her, an American staying at the local hotel goes missing, there are two archaeologists digging in a patch of furze and gorse. Then she is attacked whilst walking back from the hotel. She doesn’t know who to trust.

I wasn’t totally convinced by the plot, although there is plenty of tension. There was no way I would have guessed the outcome which I thought was a bit far-fetched. The descriptions of the location, however are very good:

They walked along the shore in a silence which became almost companionable after a couple of minutes. The sun was quite low now, shooting a line of varnished brightness up the Solway, laying a golden boundary between England and Scotland. The line of the tide running down to the Irish Sea was obscured by light. Her mind played with the phrase for a moment, then let it be washed away by the gentle lap of the ebbing water which, with their own footsteps, was the only sound. It seemed to merge with the silence rather than break it, just as the buildings that were now in sight seemed to lie flat against the frieze of grass, sea and sky rather than intrude into it. (page 12)

I borrowed both books from the library.